Monthly Archives: August 2015

Untested Loyalty

UNTESTED LOYALTY

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. ‘You will all fall away,’ Jesus told them, ‘for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’

Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’ ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, ‘today – yes, tonight – before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’ But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ All the others said the same. (Mark 14: 26-31)

Why did Jesus sound a warning like that? There was no doubt that Peter was very sincere in his declaration of loyalty. Weren’t they all at that moment? Unlike Judas, who had every intention of betraying Jesus, Peter had no such plan of ever denying his association with Him. Why would he? He didn’t have a bone to pick with Him. He may not have always agreed with Him or even understood Him, but there was no doubt about his commitment of loyalty to Him.

Peter adored Jesus, so much so that he did everything in his power to impress Him. Did you notice that when you read the gospels? He was Peter, the “motor mouth”. If there was anything to be said, Peter said it. He was the spokesman for the group. On behalf of them all, he declared without hesitation, in response to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” No doubt they had discussed it among themselves when His words and actions baffled them.

There was no way that He could be just an ordinary man. Never could a man, in all their history, not even the most powerful of prophets, hold a candle to Him. It was not only His words and actions that held them spellbound but also His very nature, revealing the mercy, compassion and love they had never experienced before. There was nothing in Him that resembled other men, and yet He was all man. They were mesmerised by Him.

So, at that moment, in the face of His declaration, they could not think of doing something as dastardly as disowning Him. Their intentions were of the best, but they did not know themselves.

But why was Peter singled out for a warning when they would all be in it together? After all, which was worse – verbally disowning Him or running away when He needed their support. It was one and the same thing.

Peter had to take the rap because Peter was the blabbermouth as usual. The others took their cue from him. We must not forget that these men were very young, probably not much older than teenagers. Rabbis chose their disciples, not from the seasoned scholars but from among the learner rabbis. Jesus, no doubt also looked for the young ones – those He could mould into His image before they became too set in their ways. Perhaps one like Matthew might have been a bit older, in his late twenties, but the rest were still apprentices on the journey of life – untested and inexperienced in handling crises.

Once before, Jesus had warned Peter about Satan’s intention, but he brushed it off with no comment, obviously not really taking His words seriously. Jesus had indicated that He was not perturbed – in fact He promised to pray for him, not to get him out of the test but to pass the test so that he could use the experience to support others when they were tested.

This was the crux of the matter. It was imperative that Peter and his fellow disciples be tested. That they failed was not the issue. They had to experience the test because it was part of their maturing process. Failure was far more important than success. Failure imprints the lesson far more deeply than success. Peter’s protestation of loyalty, backed up by the others meant nothing without putting it to the test. He had to feel the shame of failure. He had to taste the sweetness of the Master’s forgiveness and the realisation that the love of his Master did not depend on his performance but on His character. Peter could not fail himself out of his union with Jesus.

Peter had to learn that it was love for Jesus, not his will power that would steady him in the storms of life. The greatest commandment, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength’ still stands as the solid rock upon which loyalty is built. Everything else is but shifting sand.

‘If you love me,’ Jesus said, ‘you will do what I command you.’

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

 

Exposed!

EXPOSED!

When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, He said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.’ They were saddened, and one by one they said to Him, ‘Surely you don’t mean me?’ ‘It is one of the Twelve,’ He replied, ‘one who dips bread in the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better if he had not been born.’ (Mark 14: 17-21)

Why did Jesus not say outright who the traitor was? He obviously knew what would happen and who would be responsible for selling Him out to the Jewish hierarchy. Was He giving Judas an opportunity to change his mind without divulging his identity? And yet it had to be because it was the will of the Father that He die as an offering for sin. How does one reconcile the sovereignty of God and the free will of man? We cannot!

Judas knew what he was about to do, but the other eleven disciples were mystified. It was impossible that the guilty one did not to know that he would be a traitor. They were also not aware that they would all desert Him, but that was to be a spur-of-the-moment action prompted by fear. On the other hand, betrayal was a premeditated decision, and Judas was well aware that it was he who was planning the evil deed. No way would he own up at that moment! The rest of the disciples would have dealt with him if they knew who it was.

Jesus used a sign to indicate that He knew the identity of the traitor, more for Judas’ sake than for the other disciples. Even then they did not pick up the clue. They were not aware of what Judas was planning in his heart. Betrayal? What would he do? They let the moment pass without understanding its significance.

Jesus has shown Judas, through various gestures that, in spite of what he was planning, He held nothing against him. It was Judas who had the place of honour at the table. He reclined on Jesus’ left, close enough for Jesus to hold a conversation with him. John sat on His right and leaned against Him while the other disciples were arranged around the table. It was Judas who received the bread dipped in the bowl of sauce which was a sign of special friendship – and Judas received it without protest! What more could Jesus do to convey His message of love. Even at that moment He did not judge him.

But He did warn him. ”Judas, you are in great peril. The decision you have made and the action you take tonight will decide your destiny.” But Judas was unmoved. His mind was made up, his intention already conveyed to the chief priests, and there was no going back.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ He said to them. ‘Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ (Mark 14: 22-25)

A familiar ceremony for the disciples, but strange words! Never before had anyone hosting the Passover Feast spoken words like His. They were familiar with every step in the process of celebrating the exodus from Egypt and they knew the meaning of all the symbolism, but what was He talking about? His body? His blood? On the many occasions He had tried to get them used to the idea that He was going to die a violent death at the hands of the religious leaders, they dismissed His words without another thought. As much as He kept at it, so much they forgot because it made no sense to them.

But now it was the central focus of His words and actions and they could not ignore this addition to the familiar things that happened at the Passover meal. The bread and the wine would become the central focus of a new “Passover” supper that would be celebrated throughout the world by every believer in every country throughout every generation – until He comes, as Paul recorded in 1 Cor. 11, to remember the new “exodus” from the dominion of darkness and slavery to sin.

As uncomprehending as the disciples were then, it would take the reality of His death and the horror of what they had to witness, the astonishing event of His resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost to bring all these event together into one great “lightbulb moment” for the eleven men who were left after Judas took his life.

Sometimes it takes a similar moment for the things in our lives that are incomprehensible at the time, to fall into place and make sense when everything seems to be spinning out of control. If we wait and trust, God will reveal His purpose.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

 

The Countdown Begins

THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS

On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked Him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So He sent two of His disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: ‘Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations there.’

The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. (Mark 14: 10-16)

Passover and Unleavened Bread were the first of annual feasts God appointed for His people to celebrate in preparation for the coming of Messiah. During their exodus from Egypt and their sojourn in the desert, God commanded that they celebrate seven feasts during each year, three spring feasts in the month of Nisan, one summer feast fifty days later and three autumn feasts in the month of Tishri.

These feasts had three purposes: They were to celebrate their ancestors’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt and their journey through the wilderness; they were to give thanks for their harvests and they were to anticipate the coming of their Messiah. The ancient rabbis believed that Messiah would fulfil each feast in order and that He would come twice. The spring feasts would fulfil His first coming and the autumn feasts His second coming.

Jesus had celebrated the feasts from childhood as a faithful Jew and as a rabbi, but there was a significance about this Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread which would be far more than a remembrance of His people’s deliverance from Egypt. Mark gave one third of his gospel to the record of the last week of Jesus’ life. He would fulfil the three feasts clustered together in the eight days from Passover to the end of Unleavened Bread; Passover followed by Unleavened Bread, with Firstfruits on the first day after the first Sabbath after Passover.

His disciples would not understand the fulfilment of these feasts at the time, but the Holy Spirit, who would come on them on the day of the fourth feast, Pentecost, would be the key to interpreting the Messianic significance of each feast.

When God betrothed His people to Himself at Sinai where He gave them His marriage contract – the Ten Commandments – as His ketubah, He instructed them to celebrate these annual feasts to practise for the coming of Messiah – their bridegroom, just as we in the western world practise for a wedding ceremony. Their obedience would be an expression of their expectation that God would fulfil His promise.

The events surrounding the preparation for this Passover are quite mysterious. Jesus gave His disciples directions for the venue as though He had prearranged with a homeowner who would open his home to them. Did this man set up the signal, or did Jesus direct them to him through divine revelation. We don’t know and Mark does not tell us. Why was a man carrying a water jar to be the secret sign? Men did not usually fetch water from the well. Fetching water was women’s work, for example, Rachel and Rebekah in Genesis and the Samaritan woman in John’s gospel.

The disciples would easily recognise the cue and follow the man to his house. Why the secrecy? Was it because Jesus was aware of the plot against Him and He did not want the authorities to know where He and His disciples were so that they would not arrest Him prematurely. Everything had to be fulfilled according to the Scriptures.

The religious leaders had decided not to arrest Him during the Passover season for fear of a riot, but it was God’s purpose for Him to die as the Passover lamb, at the exact moment when the high priest killed the first lamb at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Amazing how God’s purpose and man’s action were perfectly synchronised to fulfil God’s plan!

Mark zeroed in on this significant event to put his Roman readers in the picture that Jesus was God’s Passover lamb as the death of the lambs symbolised on the day when God delivered His people from Egypt.

Why is it that the death of Jesus has been ripped from its roots in Jewish history and placed in the centre of pagan mythology? Since when did He have anything to do with Easter? How sad that anti-Semitic sentiment is so strong that Jesus’ Jewishness is offensive, and that the church of Jesus has never taken the trouble to extricate Him from all the pagan traditions that surround His birth and His death and put Him back where He belongs, in the truth of the ancient Scriptures and the culture of His own people.

It is even more tragic that so-called “believers” will fight for the right to celebrate their pagan traditions in the name of Jesus instead of living as His faithful disciples as a witness to who He was and why He came.

Come on, church. Let’s forsake the traditions which we hold to so dearly, just as the Pharisees did in His day – and nullify the Word of God, and let’s put Jesus back where He belongs – not the Christ of Christmas and Easter but the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed to save us, the firstborn in Adam, from death.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

 

A Treacherous Association

A TREACHEROUS ASSOCIATION

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand Him over. (Mark 14: 10-11)

Mmm! So Judas was among those who jumped on the woman for wasting her perfume on Jesus, was it?  In John’s account of this or a similar story, he named him. But it is significant, isn’t it, that Judas chose this moment to leave the group and make his offer to the chief priests. Was it this incident that tipped him over the edge?

What was it with Judas that he was never really one with the rest of the disciples? Now and again the gospel writers named one or other of the disciples, apart from Peter, James and John who were the three in the forefront of the action and the conversation in the group. But Judas is not mentioned except for those times when his true nature was revealed. John said he was a thief – helping himself to money from the communal purse. One wonders why Jesus entrusted the bag to him.

On this occasion he was among those who had a lot to say about a woman who poured an entire jar of very expensive nard on Jesus’ head. Jesus openly rebuked them, defending the woman’s action with gracious words. Judas must have stung with the rebuke, especially as it exposed his callous heart. He had no sympathy for the poor. If he did, why did he not give of his own money instead of criticising her for her act of devotion to Jesus? Obviously he did not understand love like that.

What was Judas’ issue with Jesus that drove him to do such a dastardly deed to someone who had whom shown him nothing but love and friendship? What was Judas’ expectation of Jesus? Obviously he was a sympathiser with those who were anti-Rome. Like some of the other disciples, he could not wait for the day when the Romans were driven from Israel, as he and the other disciples expected from their Messiah. Their expectation was so high that they were continually squabbling among themselves about positions in Jesus’ new government.

Jesus had made it obvious that He had no connection with the current religious leaders because of their hypocrisy and double standards – so they would not have a place in Jesus’ cabinet. His disciples would feature prominently in the rulership when He took over, so he must have thought. Judas was the quiet one, not saying anything but scheming under the surface about what he wat going to do. He took no one into his confidence when he cooked up his plan to try to force Jesus’ hand.

Why did he decide to betray his Master to the ruling party? Did he really want to get rid of Him? It’s possible, since there can be no fellowship between light and darkness. Judas had an evil heart and not even his years in the company of Jesus had changed that. The more time he spent with Him, the great the rift became as Judas’ heart was exposed, time and again by the truth that fell from Jesus’ lips. Like the Pharisees, did Judas decide that the only way to silence his conscience was to shut the mouth of the one who pricked and prodded him?

Perhaps Judas was becoming frustrated that his political aspirations were not being fulfilled. Why did he decide to follow Jesus when he heard His call? Did he attach himself to the group initially, becoming interested when he listened to this man talking about the kingdom of God? Then, surprise, when Jesus chose His Twelve from among the many that followed Him, Judas found himself among the chosen ones. Did he want to be there? Perhaps, so that he could find out more about this kingdom He was proclaiming and be in on the planning and preparation to take over.

Imagine his frustration when Jesus spent not one moment scheming with His disciples on their take-over strategy. Instead, He spoke about heart attitudes and actions which hit Judas in the solar plexus, uncovering his greedy and wicked heart until he could stand it no more. This final prod, defending a worthless woman and exposing Judas’ callous attitude to a beautiful act of devotion, sent him over the top.

Off he went to the chief priests, determined to silence Jesus once and for all, or to set up the circumstances that would force Him out into the open. But, in the end, it was not Jesus but Judas that was forced to show his hand – Judas, the treacherous back-stabbing “friend”!

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com

 

 

Never Forgotten!

NEVER FORGOTTEN!

‘Leave her alone,’ said Jesus. ‘Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly. I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.’ (Mark 14: 6-9).

What a contrast between the generous and scandalously wasteful gift this woman poured on the head of Jesus and the cruel criticism of the skinflints who had no intention of giving to the poor anyway. And just as lavish as her gift, so also was the praise Jesus heaped on her for her devotion. He read into her action far more than she even intended.

When she awoke that morning, did she have one thought in her mind? “Today I will give to Jesus the very best I have to show Him how much I love Him”; or was it a spontaneous gesture when she heard that He was in Bethany? Was she one of those who had received His forgiveness for the way she had lived? Was the alabaster jar of precious perfume the result of her soliciting to make ends meet? Had she invested some of her earnings in the one thing that had great value, or was it a gift from her beloved father to ensure that his child would be cared for by a loving husband?

Perhaps things had not worked out for her as she had hoped. No man would have her now. She was soiled beyond hope, according to Luke’s story, a woman of the street whom people despised. As for the religious leaders – they were out front in their contempt for this woman of the night, albeit some of them were also her customers, but incognito because never let it be told that they went to her house for their pleasure.

But she saw something in Jesus that she had never seen in any other man. He did not look at her lustfully or undress her with His eyes. There was genuine compassion and acceptance in His glance. Never a word of condemnation did He speak or look at her with the contempt she knew she deserved. He treated her with courtesy and dignity as a daughter of God, created in His image with the potential to reflect Him in her life. All she needed was to be set free from her shackles of shame and guilt, and be reinstated in His family as a beloved daughter.

She felt special and loved when she was near Him. When she heard that He was in the home of Lazarus and his sisters, she searched her house for a gift worthy of the man who had set her free. Her eyes fell on her alabaster jar on the shelf. There was nothing more valuable in her home than that. She didn’t care that it was irreplaceable. Never again would she do what she did to purchase her prize if that was the way she had acquired it.

Snatching it from the shelf, she hid it under her cloak and hurried off to the place where the feast was being held. Slipping in unobtrusively among the guests, she fell at His feet, broke open the fragile jar and deluged His head with the costly perfume. Its delicate fragrance began to waft through the room, overtaking the odours of cooking and food until everyone was aware of the perfume.

The nasty ones, of course, were immediately hit by the enormity of this wasteful act. “She’s crazy!” they muttered. “What was she thinking? Why didn’t she sell it, if she was really feeling that generous, and give the money to the poor?” Since when did the poor matter to them so much? If they really cared, why hadn’t they been as lavishly generous to the poor out of their abundance as they wanted her to be?

Jesus turned on them indignantly. He knew what they were muttering. He was always aware of thoughts and attitudes that hit Him in the solar plexus. He faced their mean-spirited criticism full on. “One thing is for sure,” He exploded, “This woman’s action, her devotion for me, which you so despise, is not only preparation for my burial, but also a memorial to her. You will be remembered for your mean and ugly hearts – exposed by your words; but her love and sacrifice for me will never be forgotten. Every person who reads my story, throughout the generations until the end of time, will know what she did for me.”

How would you like to hear words of praise like that from the lips of Jesus?

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com